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Pistons' Griffin ensures Hearn's NBA debut is memorable

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Pistons guard Reggie Hearn saw the lopsided score and figured it was his time.


Hearn, 26, a two-way player from the Grand Rapids Drive of the development league, was getting a chance to play in the final 2:33 of the Pistons’ 20-point win Monday over the Portland Trail Blazers.

It was his first NBA game — and his first shot, a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the right corner, in front of the Pistons’ bench, was all net. 
As important his first NBA basket was, another memorable moment came just after the final buzzer, when Blake Griffin presented Hearn with the game ball.

“That was an awesome gesture. The thing I really appreciated was how genuine he was about it,” Hearn said Tuesday. “I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that it was my first shot and I could even get the ball. I’m from the G-League where you don’t get to take balls home.

“The fact that he came up and asked me if that was my first shot (was memorable).”

It’s been another unheralded element of the trade that brought Griffin to the Pistons: he’s ingratiated himself to all his new teammates, showing leadership that is creating cohesion off the court and boosting them to a four-game win streak since the deal.

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“That’s a big moment. That’s something that I would want to keep,” Griffin told The Detroit News on Tuesday. “I don’t have my first ball. It seemed like a cool moment; he got in the game for two minutes, hit a corner 3 — his first shot ever, so that was really cool.

“That’s a special thing for him to be able to keep that (ball), so I made sure the ref didn’t throw it out.”

Griffin, the five-time All-Star and newest Piston, wanted to do something special for Hearn, which made its own impression.

“That’s what leaders do. You think about the idea of servant leadership. I’m going to follow somebody who is acquiescing to my needs, who’s concerned about me,” Hearn said. “That’s how Jesus Christ did it, servant leader — that’s who I follow.

“To see Blake do that for me, that makes me want to follow him into battle. He’s looking out for me, the guy who never plays.”

Griffin’s gesture is just part of the new attitude and culture that seems to be permeating the Pistons squad, both on the court and in the locker room. They seem to be playing looser, more care-free, with a bona fide superstar at the helm.

The difference has been noticeable for coach Stan Van Gundy, who saw his team get a season-high 36 assists in Monday’s win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

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“It’s been a short amount of time but (Griffin) has been tremendous, making plays for other people. He enjoys that a lot more, it seems, than when he scores,” Van Gundy said. “The pass he made to Andre (Drummond) on the break excited him. The kick-out for Reggie Bullock’s 3.

“He gets excited when he throws the ball to somebody and the ball goes down. He loves that.”

For Hearn, it’s a night that he likely won’t forget, as he’s heading back to the Drive to play in Chicago on Wednesday.

He joked on the significance of the shot and what it might hold for his future.

“I got one bucket in and I’m thinking about retiring and going out with a 100-percent shooting percentage,” Hearn said. “First and foremost, I was excited for us to get our fourth win. Ever since Blake got here, we’ve been playing really well and we have a chance to make a run and maybe get up in the seed 5 through 8 in the playoffs.

“If there’s any way I can be part of that, I want to do that.”